Unlimited blowouts in NYC for $99 a month?! Are you kidding me? This was my reaction when I first learned about a new service called Vive, launched in New York City just this year. Once you get off a waiting list, you get access to as many blowouts as your hair and heart desire at salons near you for only $99 per month. To put this in perspective, a typical blowout in a major city costs ~$40 (plus tip). Therefore, if you get 2-3 blowouts per month with Vive, the service has paid for itself. The growth and success of blow dry only salons like Drybar and Blo have set the stage quite nicely for Vive. Consumers already recognize the value of going to a salon only to have your hair washed and professionally blown dry. On the other side of the equation, full-service hair salons have likely seen a decrease in their business since the advent of blow dry only salons and therefore have an interest in getting into that game.
From a consumer’s perspective, Vive’s website is incredibly easy to use. All you have to do is put the address around which you would like Vive’s system to search for an available appointment (e.g., your apartment, your office), the date you want, and the desired time. Vive automatically sends you a text saying they have received your request and are working on finding an appointment at a nearby salon. You then get another text once an appointment for you is confirmed, including the name of the salon as well as its phone number and address. You can cancel without charge up to 24 hours before your appointment. At the salon, all you have to do is tell them you are from Vive, and your appointment will begin. You can tip or not – totally up to you. Like Uber or TaskRabbit, you rate the salon after your appointment. This ensures only quality salons are in Vive’s network, so the consumer feels she is getting her money’s worth. In addition to its website and text communication, Vive also has a very responsive customer service team that you can reach via email. I worked with them several times (for example, to cancel my membership once I left NYC this summer).
One concern I have for Vive is its scalability. It must take quite some time to negotiate with each salon and validate its quality. I suppose one could argue this likely was a similar concern for Uber, who seems to have overcome that hurdle quite effectively. Vive will have to show salons that its service is an effective way to better utilize their capital, which otherwise may be sitting there idle in the form of a physical hair salon with unused stylists.
This is how Vive creates value: by connecting women who want to look polished without breaking the bank and salons that want to make extra money where they may have made none. At the moment I am not too afraid of competition, because Vive and BeautyPass (which is less well-marketed) are the only services like it in the market today. Furthermore, Vive covers most neighborhoods in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Hamptons – scale that is not very easily replicated. One may argue that other apps like GlamSquad or even Uber (if it accessed individual stylists) pose a threat; however, I would argue that many women want the experience and convenience of going to an actual salon. That can be much more pleasant and comfortable than having a stranger stylist set up shop in your living room, which, if you live in NYC, is likely the size of a shoe box.